The art of Sierra Leone

15th-20th century

videos + essays

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Ceremonial Ladle (Dan peoples)
Ceremonial Ladle (Dan peoples)

The hostess with the mostess: these ladles honored women for their exceptional generosity and hospitality.

Helmet Mask
Helmet Mask

Masks like this represent a guardian spirit and allude to an idealized female beauty in Mende and Sherbro culture.

Lidded Saltcellar
Lidded Saltcellar

Ivory saltcellars were objects created for trade: they were African made and intended for the Portuguese market.

Cotton hammock (Vai peoples)
Cotton hammock (Vai peoples)

Before motorized transport, male and female chiefs in Sierra Leone were transported in these elaborate hammocks.

Stone Head (mahe yafei), Kisi peoples
Stone Head (mahe yafei), Kisi peoples

These enigmatic stone heads were found in Sierra Leone and Liberia, and perhaps predate European arrival to Africa.

Bundu / Sowei Helmet Mask (Mende peoples)
Bundu / Sowei Helmet Mask (Mende peoples)

The Mende initiation rite for young women is the only known masquerade tradition where the mask-wearers are female.

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